Young people in Worthing: New community youth lounge unveiled in Worthing

A plain church hall has been transformed into a colourful, multi-purpose youth lounge, thanks to a £21,000 refurbishment at St Matthew’s Church in Worthing.

The new community youth facility was designed by Michelle Cassell, who met with the young people over Zoom to discuss what they wanted and needed from their dedicated space.

Worthing deputy mayor Richard Nowak and deputy youth mayor Henny Sonnamann-Petty cut the ribbon to officially open the new youth lounge on Friday.

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Clive Latter, full-time youth worker, said: “It is a really intentional space. It is a statement of what is important, who is important and the priorities of who we are.

The new youth lounge at St Matthew’s Church in Worthing is divided into distinct areas for various uses

“Covid restrictions and particularly the lockdowns have been of real detriment to the mental health of many young people. We want this to be a safe space where they can meet, relax and build relationships.

“The young people wanted different spaces for different things, so there are five distinctly different spaces but they are all one. You can have a group running where there are separate people in the different areas but there is a sense of togetherness.

“There can be a led activity or there can be a couple of groups doing something and others on the bean bags chatting.”

Worthing deputy mayor Richard Nowac and deputy youth mayor Henny Sonnamann-Petty cut the ribbon to officially open the new youth lounge at St Matthew's Church in Worthing

The chosen scheme was constructed by skilled volunteers from the church in July and August and has been in use since the start of September with an after-school drop-in on Tuesdays at 3.30pm and a youth night on Fridays at 7.30pm.

Michelle said it was her meeting with the young people over Zoom that led her design. She chatted with them about what they would use the space for and things they wanted inside it.

She added: “Some were very ambitious but the main things were having different areas to be able to sit, so if you wanted a private conversation with a friend, you could be separate, or if you wanted to play board games, you could sit together at a table.

“They wanted it to be cosy and flexible. They wanted a space where they could choose different ways of sitting in different size groups, as well as space to stand up. A kitchen area was also important, as the main kitchen is separate and they wanted to be able to make a drink without leaving the room.”

Vicar the Rev Paul Taylor said the church received a £10,100 grant from Allchurches Trust, £2,500 from the parochial church council and two donations from the congregation, of £5,000 and £2,000.

He added: “We have some very skilled men in our church. They worked so hard and in two months, they built this.”

He said the discussions had been ‘in the darkest days of lockdown’ and it had really encouraged the young people that Michelle was able to listen to them and deliver what they wanted.

As time goes on, the young people will be allowed to personalise the space and they will help guide how it is used in future.

For more detail about youth work at St Matthew’s Church, email Clive Latter at [email protected]